On this anniversary of the D-Day invasion, we would be wise to remember the sacrifices and hardships our veterans endured to liberate a continent. Through their eyes, we see the true character of America and the price of freedom. The French certainly haven’t forgotten, nor should we.
Codenamed “Operation Overlord,” the Allied invasion of Europe via Normandy, France was conducted 70 years ago today. Most of the veterans of the largest amphibious invasion of all time have since passed, but we should be mindful of their achievement and the sacrifices they bore. It was their job to cross the English Channel and breach Hitler’s formidable Atlantic Wall, laced with a million land mines, booby traps, anti-tank traps, miles of barbed wire, battle hardened troops, and concealed fortifications with heavy armament. The Germans were commanded by Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, the legendary “Desert Fox” from the North African campaign. As such, the Allies recognized this would be a daunting task.
The Supreme Allied Commander was General Dwight Eisenhower, better known as “Ike.” It was his job to plan, organize, and implement this massive invasion. Devising a suitable strategy would prove difficult. The conventional wisdom at the time assumed the Allies would invade at Pas de Calais, representing the shortest distance between England and France. Not surprisingly, this area was heavily fortified by the Germans in anticipation of the crossing there. Realizing the considerable number of soldiers and equipment needed to make the invasion a success, Eisenhower needed to rely on the element of surprise. Consequently, Normandy was selected. In addition to the strategy, the job was made complicated by the number of Allied countries involved, the number of personnel and equipment required, the weather and lunar cycle–which dictated the tides, and some slight of hand to keep the Germans off balance. To this end, Eisenhower devised an entire phantom army around General George S. Patton, using decoys, props, and fake signals. The charade caused the Germans to believe Patton would lead the invasion at Pas de Calais.
The politics and logistics of assembling the invasion under tight secrecy was incredible, and a tribute to Eisenhower’s determination, organizational skills, and political finesse. Ike hinted at his approach by saying, “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” In reality, Eisenhower had to walk a fine line not to offend any of the Allies involved with the invasion. This included not showing favoritism to the Americans and belittling the British. As a result, overall command of the ground forces was given to Britain’s Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery.
160,000 Allied soldiers would land on June 6th, a day after the original target date, delayed due to inclement weather. They were supported by nearly 5,000 ships of varying sizes and shapes, making it the largest armada ever assembled. The troops landed on the Normandy coast, which was divided into five sectors code-named:
Utah Beach – represented the right flank, the most western side of the attack. The US 4th Infantry Division met light resistance there.
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This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Informing And Equipping Americans Who Love Freedom